Fines for Unvaccinated Announced Amid NSW Opening Up

Poppy Morandin.

New South Wales businesses could face fines of up to $5,000 for letting unvaccinated customers enter their premises, as the state begins to open up.

With ‘Freedom Day’, having occurred on 11 October 2021, those who have received a double dose of a COVID-19 vaccination will be able to go shopping and go to the pub, amid other measures put in place to relax restrictions.

“Vaccination will provide greater freedoms as our society opens up and it reduces the risk of you spreading the virus to someone vulnerable, which could cost them their life.

“Despite the ongoing challenges that will continue to be posed by COVID-19, we have the opportunity to lead the world which is why it is vital everyone is vaccinated and follows the updated public health advice that will be in place from 11 October.” commented Health Minister, Brad Hazzard

However, those who remain unvaccinated will have to wait until December 1 to receive the same freedoms.

In the meantime, an unvaccinated adult will be unable to enter premises including entertainment facilities, recreation facilities, hospitality venues, not-critical retail premises, and beauty-service related businesses.

On the spot fines of $1,000 apply for those who do so or those who use fraudulent evidence of vaccination or check-in.

The government has placed a significant amount of onus on business, stating that they must take reasonable steps to prevent unvaccinated people entering their premises.

Steps that the government has identified as reasonable include asking staff to check proof of customer’s COVID-19 vaccination status upon entry (where practical) and displaying posters outlining vaccination requirements.

The forms of evidence of vaccination that can be accepted include:

  • A COVID-19 digital certificate displayed through the Medicare App, Service NSW App, or equivalent smartphone wallet,
  • Printed version of the COVID-19 digital certificate or immunisation history statement,
  • Successful completion of a Service NSW QR check-in that includes vaccination confirmation.

Businesses that do not comply with the Public Health Order vaccination requirements may be fined receive on the spot fines of $5,000.

Further penalties including closure of businesses, and higher fines for individuals and businesses may apply for significant breaches.

The government has stated that ‘authorised officers’ will be monitoring businesses re-opening, with particular attention on hospitality, retail, gyms and personal services (e.g., hair, beauty).

Unvaccinated adults are still permitted to purchase food or beverages to be consumed off the premises, use click and collect services, and attend a small funeral, memorial service, or wedding service.

The new measures are outlined in the Public Health (COVID-19 General) Order 2021, as amended on 8 October 2021, under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).

The Order is set out as part of the roadmap for easing restrictions, due to NSW reaching the target of 70% of the population over 16 years of age being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Paying on the spot fines issued pursuant to the Order, and as outlined in Schedule 4 of the Public Health Regulation 2012, will not result in a criminal conviction being recorded against the offender.

Whilst the penalty notice can be challenged in court, if found guilty, you may be convicted and face a maximum penalty of up to 6 months in prison and/or an $11,000 fine for failing to comply with a public health order, pursuant to section 10 of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).

In the case of a continuing offence, on top of this maximum penalty, a further $5,500 penalty may apply for each day the offence continues.

Businesses or ‘corporations’ face a maximum penalty of $55,000, with a further $27,500 applicable for each day the offence continues.

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